The Sydney Roosters have pulled off a commendable comeback in Townsville, downing the Cowboys 30-18 after coughing up two early tries.
The Cowboys looked to have ambushed Trent Robinson’s men on a balmy day in North Queensland when Javid Bowen and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow crossed over in the opening sequences of the game.
Scott Drinkwater was in cruise control, orchestrating the play for the Queenslanders, but as fast as the Cowboys sprung to the lead, they just as quickly found themselves trailing by the break.
Billy Smith, Angus Crichton and Joey Manu ran in three unanswered tries to somehow snatch back the lead 14-12 by half-time, and swing the momentum heading into the second period.
Ultimately it was the Cowboys’ brittle right-edge defence that cost them, as the Roosters first got themselves back in the game, then ran off with the lead down the other flank in the second half.
A double to Matt Ikuvalu and a darting four-pointer to youngster Sam Walker sealed the Cowboys’ fate and gave the Roosters some much-needed breathing room to see them into fifth place on the NRL ladder.
Following the final whistle, cameras caught Cowboys stars Tom Gilbert in tears in the dressing room as he was comforted by an equally distraught Francis Molo.
“We’re seeing some emotion from the Cowboys players in the sheds after obviously a tough loss,” NRL legend Cooper Cronk said on Fox Sports.
“But Todd Payten has an issue, full stop, with the Cowboys. They need to fix their edge defence, flat out. It’s been their issue all year long. They conceded six tries down both edges again today.
“The Cowboys boys are obviously very devastated off that loss. But Todd Payten needs to fix up his edge defence quickly otherwise they will not be playing finals.”
The loss consigns the Cowboys to their fifth match without points on the trot – a massive hit for their finals hopes.